The legacy of the Hart Wrestling Family contains a mixture of success and triumph along with tragedy and controversy. Every true wrestling fan knows the story of the Hart Family. Their story might be the most well-documented story in the history of the business. It all began with Stu Hart, who was a very accomplished and respected amateur and professional wrestler. Stu and his wife Helen had a large family of over twelve children. Out of these twelve kids, the brothers Bret and Owen would go on to become the most famous.
Owen Hart, as one would expect, started his wrestling career in the amateur ranks in school and also trained in his father's legendary and infamous Dungeon. He started his professional wrestling career in his home country of Canada in Stampede Wrestling and would soon travel abroad to Japan to further hone his skills. Owen enjoyed considerable success in the Land of the Rising Sun while competing for the New Japan Pro Wrestling organization.
In the late 80's, Owen returned to North America to continue his career in the United States. Owen made his debut in World Wrestling Entertainment, which was known as the World Wrestling Federation back then, as The Blue Blazer. He was only with the WWF for a short time and would soon return to the independent circuit. He also wrestled a few matches for World Championship Wrestling in 1991, but ended up returning to the WWF in that same year.
Bret "The Hitman" Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, collectively known as The Hart Foundation, had been a successful tag team in the WWF for a number of years before splitting up in 1991. Bret would go on to achieve quick success in the singles division, capturing the WWE Intercontinental Championship and the WWE World Championship all by the end of 1992. Meanwhile, Owen and The Anvil formed a tag team as The New Foundation.
Throughout the early and mid 90's, Owen enjoyed success as a tag team wrestler with the late Yokozuna and Owen's brother-in-law, the late "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith. Owen also had a memorable feud against his older brother Bret, and even picked up a clean victory over Bret at WrestleMania X. Owen would also go on to win the 1994 King of the Ring Tournament.
1997 was a very important year for Owen and the Hart Family. Owen, along with Bret, Jim Neidhart, Davey Boy Smith, and the late Brian Pillman, formed another incarnation of The Hart Foundation and established themselves as an anti-American faction. During his time in The New Hart Foundation, Owen defeated Rocky Maivia (now known as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) for the prestigious WWF Intercontinental Championship.
At the November 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view event, the now legendary and infamous "Montreal Screwjob" took place involving Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and WWF Chairman Mr. Vince McMahon. While Bret was already about to leave the WWF for WCW, this incident resulted in Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith requesting their releases from the WWF to go to WCW as well. Owen Hart, however, stayed with the WWF.
The early part of 1998 saw Owen Hart mostly feuding against Shawn Michaels and the D-Generation X stable. Owen also joined the Nation of Domination, which had previously consisted of only African-American members. Owen feuded against Triple H over the WWF European Championship as well.
By the end of 1998, Owen had formed a tag team with Jeff Jarrett and the duo would eventually capture the WWF World Tag Team Championship. Owen also reverted back to his Blue Blazer gimmick at this time and tried to convince the WWF fans that it was not him underneath the Blazer mask. As The Blue Blazer, Owen was set to challenge The Godfather for the WWF Intercontinental Title at the May 23rd, 1999 pay-per-view event called Over The Edge. It was on this night that one of the most tragic events in the history of wrestling occurred.
Owen Hart was scheduled to do a special ring entrance for his match against The Godfather. He would descend to the ring from the rafters using a vest with a cable attached. However, an accident happened with the vest and the cable, and Owen fell from the rafters into the ring. The live crowd in attendance did not see this happen though, as there was a video being shown on the TitanTron featuring highlights of Owen as The Blue Blazer. Owen was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His official cause of death was ruled as internal bleeding from blunt force trauma. Owen James Hart was 34 years old.
The 1999 Over The Edge event was marred with controversy, not just because of Owen's death, but also due to the WWF's decision to continue on with the show after Owen had passed away.
The following night's episode of WWF Monday Night Raw was dedicated to Owen and featured emotional interviews and tributes from his WWF peers. This highly emotional edition of Raw would also go down as one of the most-watched, scoring a 7.2 television rating, still one of the highest in WWE/WWF history.
Owen's tragic passing resulted in controversy and lawsuits from the Hart Family against WWE and even the company who manufactured the harness and safety equipment that was used on the night of his accident. While Owen's brother Bret would eventually reconcile with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and the company as a whole, Owen's widow Martha has still not fully settled her differences with the company. In 2010 she sued WWE for using Owen's likeness in the Hart & Soul DVD release over failure to make royalty payments to Owen's family. The matter was settled in April of 2013 before it was scheduled to go to court in June.
Many of Owen's fans and peers remember him as being a very talented performer and a stand-up human being. Many have also wondered if WWE might ever induct Owen into their Hall of Fame some day. Although it has reportedly been discussed over the years, whether or not it will happen remains to be seen.